This month's blog is written by Todd Macaulay, Financial Well-Being Officer, Employee Benefits. For more information about free financial counseling for UK employees, visit the Financial Well-Being webpage.
Certain topics are uncomfortable to discuss. For many people, money is one of these topics. In my family we did not talk about money outside of the family. Now I provide financial counseling for employees, and if everyone took my parents advice I would be out of a job.
Uncomfortable topics, if internalized, can lead to stress. Without emotional support, stress can build up. As a master “internalizer,” I know this first hand. The sooner we start talking about money with someone the easier it is. We tend to put off conversations that are awkward, uncomfortable, or embarrassing. Ironically, the longer we put off conversations about money the more uncomfortable they become.
If we put off discussing money long enough, another taboo topic starts to weave its way into the money conversation: death. When we die there will be financial consequences. At the very least, someone else may have to decide what is done with our possessions, including our money, when we die. Conversations about death are laden with nuances that vary depending on the religious beliefs, the health of all parties involved in the conversation, and family emotions that may have been years in the making. Is anyone surprised that we tend to avoid conversations about death as well?
The most important, and often the hardest, thing to do is start the conversation. It will be awkward, but less so now than if we wait. Try not to focus on a final goal or finishing the conversation, this only puts more pressure on all parties involved. Only focus, for now, on starting the conversation and maintaining an open dialogue. It is important to give ourselves time to unpack any issues that may come up. If these issues are emotional in nature, we may need to involve a counselor. As the conversation progresses and technical issues arise, we may need to seek out the expertise of an unbiased third-party, an attorney, accountant, or financial planning professional.
My 89-year-old grandmother, the matriarch of our family, recently passed away. She lived a full and long life, but that does not change the permanence of her departure. She was thankfully able to leave very clear instructions about what she wanted to be done with her money when she died. This gives her children and grandchildren tremendous peace of mind. Even if we may disagree with her decisions, they were her decisions to make and she made them. It is this future peace of mind that is the result of early open communications about money and death.
We can all hope to have this same peace of mind when our loved ones die. It is also an honorable goal to leave our loved ones with this peace of mind when we die. While the conversations may not always be enjoyable, the end result makes it all worthwhile.
A New UK Benefit
As of July 1st UK will be offering a new benefit: a funeral planning support service. This benefit will help you through one of life’s most challenging and difficult times: planning a funeral for yourself or a loved one.
Dealing with the death of a loved one is stressful, and leaves many families both emotionally and financially overwhelmed. Often important decisions are made when the family is grieving and is least prepared.
Our University’s life insurance carrier, Aetna, has partnered with Everest, a funeral planning and concierge service, to provide pre-planning and at-need funeral assistance. If you are a regular full-time employee you, your spouse, your children (26 years and younger), your parents, and your spouse’s parents are eligible to access this service either on-line or by phone 24 hours a day.
Here are some of the services Everest provides:
24/7 Advisor Planning Assistance, both pre-planning and immediate need
Creating a personal funeral plan for the employee/family
Detailed local funeral home price comparisons (available on demand via Everest’s website)
Funeral Planning Tools and a “My Wishes” Guide
Funeral home coordination and negotiation, removing the family from a sales-focused environment in a time of stress
For more information about Everest or to access Everest’s online planning tools please visit their website at www.everestfuneral.com/aetna. Use UK’s Enrollment Identification Code - AETNA0100 to create an account. You may also speak with an Everest representative at 1-800-913-8318.
*Don’t forget the UK Work + Life Connections Program offers support and counseling on a variety of topics including grief and bereavement. The Work + Life Connections Program is a voluntary, confidential service that offers five (5) free sessions with a licensed and certified therapist. For more information on this program please call (859) 257-8763.